Microsoft announced at its Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 earlier this month that it will release preview versions of not one, but two upcoming versions of its Small Business Server (SBS) in the next couple of months. And this will happen by the end of summer, affirmed Kevin Kean from the SBS Product team in a blog post on Microsoft's Official SBS Blog.
An integrated product featuring some of its most popular server-side software, Microsoft has offered the Small Business Server product line for more than a decade. So far, it has proven extremely attractive to SMBs due to its heavily discounted price, compared to the amount they would have to shell out if they purchased the software packages a la carte.
To protect its bottom line, Microsoft instead set a licensing hard limit on the maximum users that can be supported by the small business server installation, which suits smaller organizations that fly under the limit just fine. Of course, the prices these SMBs have to pay should they expand likely would be much higher. The theory is that they would be able to afford the steeper licensing fees by then, or have the clout to work out a suitable volume licensing deal.
Anyway, according to Microsoft, one version will be Windows Small Business Server 7 (SBS 7). Microsoft says it will support up to 75 users and comes with "significant security and management enhancement." From what I can observe, Microsoft will be updating to the latest product lines in the suite, which includes:
Detractors will argue that the traditional server paradigm is quickly losing its relevance with the continued encroachment of ever-more-sophisticated cloud-based technologies. This probably explains Microsoft's move to release "Aurora," which attempts to integrate both traditional server capabilities with cloud-based services.
Clearly a product taking a first stab at the market, Microsoft says Aurora is designed to handle up to 25 users and designed as a "first sever" option for small businesses. I wasn't able to find much technical information on it, though Ars Tecnica reports that Aurora servers will just be basic domain controllers with Microsoft's hosted Exchange Online for e-mail and SharePoint Online products for document-management services. Additional file replication capabilities also will be built into Aurora.
More details surely will be available soon. It is clear, though, that Microsoft is still very much involved in offering innovation and continued improvements to its product lines. For now, IT managers or CIOs keen to have a first look of the previews can sign up for the program at www.microsoft.com/sbs. Those who register will receive notification when the previews are available for download, says Microsoft.